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Feature: Nintendo in 2011 - Part One

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

An important year begins

It’s now 2012, which promises to be an eventful year for Nintendo. We’ll be giving our thoughts soon on what to expect in the coming year, but it's now time to look back at a dramatic 2011. There were plenty of major headlines and game releases, and we’ll pinpoint some of the key moments that defined the year. We'll divide this feature into two parts, so keep an eye out for part two later in the week.

January – News

The year kicked off with landmark news for the DS ‘family’ of consoles, which were about to be usurped by a flashy upstart in the handheld market. It was confirmed that the DS was the highest selling console of all time in North America, as well as topping the UK hardware chart in 2010. Considering the ageing technology in the DS, to sell in significant numbers late in its lifespan was an impressive feat.

Much focus was, of course, on the upcoming launch of the 3DS. One area that attracted a lot of press was the suitability of 3D visuals for young gamers. Nintendo stated that the 3D setting was unsuitable for children six years and under, while some doctors even claimed that viewing the stereoscopic visuals would actually benefit young children. Regardless of personal opinion, it was an issue that was distracting focus from the launch itself, and perhaps caused the public to have doubts about the technology.

Nintendo did counter such doubts with a major press event in Amsterdam, as well as various hands-on opportunities that allowed the public to try out the new handheld themselves. Previews of many of the launch titles began to surface, though doubts remained whether there was a ‘killer app’ to boost early sales. Confusion also reigned in terms of functionality, with conflicting news reports on whether the eShop would be ready for the console’s launch. Overall, games were announced and previewed, hype developed, but some were uncertain about the launch software and the all-important 3D screen.

It was a fairly quiet month for the Wii, a trend that would continue for most of the year. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland was announced, there was still no release date for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword despite the ‘finishing touches’ being applied, and Japanese RPG fans were irritated when Nintendo stated that there were ‘no plans’ to bring The Last Story to western markets: that story would come back with a vengeance later in the year.

January – Games

There was a gem on the DS with the arrival of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective... It was a perfect example of the qualities that made the DS such an enormous success.

As is typical, January was fairly quiet on the new game releases front. This was hardly a surprise, with the 3DS on the way and the Wii showing early signs of being side-lined. There was a gem on the DS, however, with the arrival of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, a puzzle game with a difference. It was a perfect example of the qualities that made the DS such an enormous success.

February – News

February brought more 3DS hype and anticipation ahead of its worldwide launch in March, with the launch line-up being announced. There were 16 titles in North America’s list (18 when including each Nintendogs variation), a decent number, though with doubts over whether there were enough big-hitters to draw consumers into a day one purchase. That said, the console hit Japan on 26th February with much fanfare and press coverage. The region-locking of the console did mean that the vast majority held off from picking up a Japanese import, casting envious glances all the while.

Away from the 3DS, there was good news for two of Nintendo’s oldest franchises. Super Mario Galaxy 2 received four nominations for BAFTA’s British Academy Video Game Awards, including the Game of the Year award, while on 21st February The Legend of Zelda turned 25, making some members of the Nintendo Life team feel very, very old.

February – Games

February brought two major releases on the Wii. Mario Sports Mix was another outing for the Mushroom Kingdom gang, indulging in activities such as basketball and ice hockey: a reasonable if unspectacular effort. The WiiWare download service did receive a welcome boost with BIT.TRIP FLUX, the sixth and final part of the venerated series. It was a fitting finale and a standout on the Wii, download or retail.

The DS, meanwhile, continued its golden farewell with Kingdom Hearts Re:coded and Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation. Dragon Quest VI, in particular, was an impressive re-make of the SNES original, with extra content and improvements expanding on wonderful foundations.

March – News

There was only one major story in town this month: the 3DS. Before we get into that, though, we’d like to direct your attention to this live text feed, giving blow-by-blow details of an epic battle over the Donkey Kong world record. The world record remained in place despite the efforts of prominent DK masters Dr Hank Chien, Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe. This ‘Kong Off’ serves as a fun reminder of the delights to be found in retro gaming.

Headlines throughout this month revolved around the 3DS in a few different ways. The 3DS had made a positive start in Japan and Nintendo made plenty of statements about the upcoming worldwide release, with announcements ranging from teasers of upcoming titles to declarations that digital content would not be priced in direct competition with smartphones. There was much debate about an interview given by Reggie Fils-Aime stating that Nintendo’s download services weren’t interested in working with ‘garage developers’. Taken in context this was an attempt to reassure gamers that independent studios of sufficient quality would be supported rather than amateurs, though it certainly prompted plenty of opinions on the definition of 'indie' developers.

When the new handheld did hit at the end of the month it performed rather well, stopping just short of selling out in the final days of the month. In good news for the Wii, meanwhile, it became the fastest selling console to hit 35 million sales in North America: an impressive statistic that further reinforced the successful legacy of the console.

March – Games

March was a month dominated by the 3DS on the games front, though its predecessor deserves a mention for three excellent titles. The Pokémon series continued with Pokémon Black and White, while Okamiden also arrived in stores, a sequel to the rather wonderful Okami. It was a technical marvel on the ageing DS hardware, with stylus controls perfectly suited to the artistic gameplay. A DSiWare version of Plants vs. Zombies also arrived, only two months after a full retail release. This was a welcome cut-price opportunity for DS owners to enjoy one of the finest games to make the transition from smartphones to a Nintendo handheld.

Our launch game buyer’s guide laid it all out, with a sense amongst some that the 3DS launch line-up had been competent, but unspectacular.

Meanwhile, it was an exciting time at Nintendo Life as we began the process of reviewing all of the launch titles for the 3DS. Although Mario, Zelda and Samus were all absent, we did class five titles as ‘must buys’, with Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and, surprisingly, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3D both being awarded impressive scores of 9/10. There were a number of middle-of-the-road releases, along with a few that were far from recommended. Our launch game buyer’s guide laid it all out, with a sense amongst some that the 3DS launch line-up had been competent, but unspectacular.

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User Comments (19)

zezhyrule

#2

zezhyrule said:

Still need to pick up Ghost Trick... Nothing else that excited me in the first part of last year.

eviLaTtenDant

#4

eviLaTtenDant said:

Great feature for these days when news are somewhat slow. Can't wait for the second part. Except for the very good DS releases there wasn't anything that really excited me for as long as i had hoped.
I couldn't believe when they actually revealed the WiiU would use a tablet controller. Up until that i thought it was total bogus and Nintendo would refine motion controls some more with Project Café. The announced games and demo units at E3 at least showed some potential for it though.
The hype for my very first 3D experience got to me late but still early enough to preorder my power-hungry shining black litte brick. Ridge Racer was a good first game for it, Pilotwings and the AR games not great but nice. To me Ghost Recon was the best of the first wave of 3DS titles though. The only real gripe with it is that imo it could have been done on the DS without much of a difference. It doesn't seem to use the 3DS's features or horsepower very much. I also thought more of the 3DS games Ninty announced would come earlier. Cough, Kid Icarus, cough. Yeah, i really was overhyped then.
The region locking to me isn't such a big problem yet. So far most of the great titles got release dates in America and Europe. I really hope there won't be gems that only one of us gets.

PS: The Black Screen Of Death was a huge reason for frustration and irritation for many of us as well.

NintyMan

#5

NintyMan said:

The first six months of 2011 were slow, but like an NL article line said, patience is a virtue. It's hard to think about gaming in early 2011 when you're playing such big first-pary titles like Mario and Mario Kart on the 3DS now, but without that in those early days of the year, it was a matter of staying patient and occausionally getting slim pickings. E3 2011 was great with Luigi's Mansion 2 announced, the Wii U revealed, and Super Smash Bros. 4 making a surprise annoucement.

I look forward to reading part 2. The next six months of 2011 completely overshadowed the first six and good news was rapid.

Stine

#6

Stine said:

Wow, some of this stuff seems like it happened yesterday. o.O

Knuckles

#7

Knuckles said:

This year was particularly slow for me. The last game i bought/recieved was pokemon black version. I downloaded 4 swords, but that didnt entertain ME very long (more friends would have helped) Thank goodness I got a 3DS for christmas.

Supremeist

#8

Supremeist said:

It was a great year to be a Nintendo fan. The only thing that greatly disappointed me was Pokemon Black and White. Everyone seemed to love it and it got great reviews... except for me. I ended up selling mine and I don't regret it at all.. I have no idea why I didn't like it very much. Other than the lack of Pokemon, this year has been great. I got my DSi XL, then later on got $100 off the 3DS by trading it into GameStop. Then getting my first launch title, "Pilotwings Resort" whom I loved and played alot. Even though I ended up selling it so I could afford Ocarina of Time 3D. I am excited to see what Nintendo can do in 2012.

kyuubikid213

#9

kyuubikid213 said:

It was an impossibly full Nintendo year for me.
First, I got a ton of old GCN games. Then, I got Pokemon White. Then I got a 3DS. I got Excitebike for free and got Nintendogs for 10.50 at Goodwill. I sold Nintendogs to get Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D. I sold my PS2 resulting in the taking away of my Wii. This left me with only the 3DS to play. I got a few $20 cards for my 3DS so I could get Ferrari GT, Inchworm Animation, Donkey Kong, Fortified Zone, Super Mario Land and Link's Awakening. I played Face Raiders and Find Mii a lot. Then, I recieved a notification that I was a 3DS Ambassador. I got those 20 free games. Then I got Dragon Quest 4 from my bro. And lastly, I got Mario Kart 7, Call of Duty 3, and Monster Hunter Tri for Christmas along with Fluidity, Mario Kart SNES, and Xevious thanks to Club Nintendo.

Whew.

BlueAce127

#11

BlueAce127 said:

I would've gotten a 3DS before the price drop. Sadly, I just didn't have $250 at that time. :( Either way, I'm a proud owner of a Cosmo Black 3DS!

As many have said before, 2011 was a great year to be a Nintendo Fan! :D

RR529

#14

RR529 said:

Although the year started out slow on the 3DS front, it ended up being a stellar year for the handheld. During the launch period I kept myself busy with early offerings such as Super Street Fighter IV, and the underrated Samurai Warriors: Chronicles. In May, Street Fighter was surpassed by Dead or Alive Dimensions (IMO). My summer was completely dominated by Ocarina 3D (as i had never played Ocarina before, it was a real treat). Then during the fall and winter, Mario excelled with 3D Land and MK7, and Ace Combat made a strong showing as well. On the download front, Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby, and Mega Man showed up on VC, along with the long forgotten (but still great) Gargoyle's Quest. At the very end of the year, 3DSware shined with Kirby's Adventure 3D, Pushmo, Mighty Switch Force, and VVVVVV. That was my experience this year with the system (and that's not counting all the free goodies, I got as well).

JimLad

#16

JimLad said:

2011 was the weakest year for the Wii so far.
I don't know if it's because they shifted all their focus onto 3DS or the WiiU or both, but it really was an appalling time to be a Nintendo home console fan.

misswliu81

#17

misswliu81 said:

i think 2011 will be seen as a good year for 3DS owners and an encouraging start that the 3DS has made, but insofar as the wii is concerned it was a bit of a hit and miss affair.

nothing for the first 6 months or so, but the releases of kirby's return to dreamland, LoZ skyward sword and xenoblade showed the wii still has life yet.

2012 will be different- more 3ds games, hopefully a few more wii titles and the launch of the wii U. this is where nintendo is expected to shine and deliver both in the hardware, software and 3rd party support for the 3ds and wii U. for that, i believe this year will be a much better one for us nintendo fans than it has been in 2011.

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